Chapter OneON MARRIAGE AND
Bill Thompson's concentration on the computer screen was so
focused that he literally jumped at the sound of his secretary's
voice on the intercom.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Pastor," she said, "but Ted Bradford just
came in and asked if he could talk with you. I thought you might want
to see him."
Bill's initial irritation at her contravention of his "do not disturb"
order melted instantly and a smile erased the frown from his face. He hit
the "save" button on the computer as he replied, "You're right, Charlene.
Send him in."
He got up from his chair and noticed that it felt good to stretch. He
wondered how long he had been hunched over his keyboard as he moved
toward the door to admit Ted to his office. Genuinely glad to see a young
man he considered one of his protégés, he extended his hand in welcome.
"Hi, Ted. Good to see you!"
"It's good to be home, Pastor," Ted replied, shaking Bill's hand. "I've
been looking forward to semester break for a long time, or so it seems."
Bill motioned to the chair facing his desk. "Have a seat. You don't
look too much the worse for wear. I like your mustache."
Ted grinned and self-consciously brushed his lip with his fingers.
"I've gotten used to it. I almost forget it's there. My folks haven't decided
what they think about it yet."
Bill laughed. "Don't worry about them. They'll adjust. They
"Yeah, I guess so."
Bill sat down in his swivel chair and leaned back. "So, how does it
feel to be one semester away from graduation?"
"I'm pretty excited about it for the most part."
"For the most part?"
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about, Pastor. I'm going
to have to make some pretty big decisions in the next few months, and
I'd like to get your advice on some of the things I've been thinking
Bill leaned forward in his chair. "Before we go any further, I want
you to know that my advice is free-and worth every penny."
Ted grimaced appropriately and continued. "I'll bear that in mind."
He hesitated. "I'm not sure where to start. It's all gotten kind of complicated."
"Complicated, huh?" Bill leaned back and arched his eyebrow.
"What's her name?"
Ted was momentarily startled. "How did you know?" Then he
laughed. "Her name is Annette-Annette Miller. And she's a remarkable
"She'd have to be to get your attention," Bill chided. "Does she like
"She doesn't let them get in her way. Not this one, at least."
"I bet with a little arm twisting you could be persuaded to produce
a picture of this young lady."
"Thought you'd never ask." Ted extracted a photograph from his
wallet and passed it across the desk to the pastor. "It's a little worn around
the edges, but I think it bears a close resemblance to the real thing."
Bill studied the picture for a moment. "Annette Miller is one very
attractive young lady, Ted. I can see why you would notice her."
"She really is a remarkable girl, Pastor."
"You said that already," Bill replied as he handed the picture back.
"Tell me something objective about her, if that's possible."
"Well, she enrolled in the one-year Bible program at the beginning
of this school year. Before that she graduated with a B.A. from the state
university with a major in African history and a minor in anthropology.
I met her during the first week in a Bible class. She was so easy to talk to,
Pastor, I didn't even have to work up courage to ask her out for the first
time. I took her to a reception for new students and we really had a great
time. The relationship just kind of took off from there."
"She sounds very impressive," Bill said. "Where does she live?"
Ted hesitated. "I'm never really sure how to answer that one. You see,
her folks are missionaries in Kenya. That's where Annette grew up. When
they come back to the States, their home base is Chicago. Of course,
Annette is pretty much on her own now, so I guess her home is wherever
she happens to be going to school."
"Well, that accounts for the major in African history," Bill said. "It
sounds like she's preparing to return to Kenya as a missionary herself."
"She's not positive that she should go to Kenya specifically, but she
does feel that the Lord has called her to a ministry in Africa. Of course
she's most familiar with Kenya, but the tribe her parents have been working
in extends across national boundaries. For that matter, she's not even
sure yet that she should return to that same tribe. She's just preparing as
much as she can so that when she does receive a more specific call, she'll
be ready to go anywhere."
"It sounds like she's very committed to the Lord."
"Yes, she is, Pastor. That's what I appreciate most about her." Ted
paused and looked down at the floor. It was quiet in the study for a few
"Do you love her, Ted?"
Ted raised his head and looked Bill in the eye. "Yes, I do-very
"Do you want to marry her?"
"Does she know that?"
"We've talked about it quite a bit."
"How does she feel about the idea?"
"She'd like to marry me, too."
"So what's the problem?"
Ted's gaze returned to the floor and he sighed. "There seem to be
several problems, Pastor, and they're not going away. The more I think
about them, the harder they seem to get, and the more confused I
"Why don't you just list them one at a time," Bill said. "Sometimes
a forest seems more manageable when you tackle one tree at a time."
"All right." Ted paused to think a moment. "One thing that concerns
me is that I don't know whether it's the Lord's will for us to get
married. When we first started dating, I never stopped to think about
whether Annette might be the girl God had chosen for me to marry. I
know that the Lord has a plan for my life, and I know that plan includes
the person I should marry. I also know that the same thing is true for
Annette and her future husband. We're just not sure we were meant for
each other, you know, as far as God's plan is concerned."
"Are you willing not to marry Annette if it's not the Lord's will?"
"I've agonized over that question a lot, Pastor. And I think I can
honestly say that I'm willing to give her up if that's His will. Both of us
realize that if the Lord doesn't mean for us to marry it would be a big
mistake for us to go ahead on our own. We want the Lord's best for our
lives-for both of our lives ." Ted hesitated for a moment. "In fact,
we've kind of broken things off until we get a clear answer on this from
"I imagine it's been kind of rough on you."
"I really have a lot of admiration for you two," Bill said. "It takes
considerable inner strength to do what you've done. I think you are
demonstrating real maturity and sincerity in this matter. The Lord will
reward that, I'm sure."
Ted took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "Annette and I have
had a wonderful relationship. I'm glad that I don't have to be ashamed of
any part of it. And there are several things that indicate that we'd make
good marriage partners. We seem to complement each other in personality
and abilities and things like that. The only major indicator that
might point in a different direction is this Africa business."
"You don't want to go to Africa?" Bill asked.
"Oh, I'd be willing to go. It's just that Annette has had such a strong
feeling that that's where she should serve the Lord, and I haven't received
any kind of a call. Until I met Annette, I never thought about Africa at
"What do you plan to do after graduation?"
Ted shrugged his shoulders. "I haven't had any strong leading in any
specific direction. I've been thinking about going to seminary. In fact,
I've applied to a couple of different schools. But even that was frustrating."
"Why? I think you'd do real well in seminary. I'm glad to hear you're
thinking about it."
"I'm excited about the idea. It's just that on the application forms
they wanted me to describe my 'call to the ministry of the gospel.' I had
to tell them that I don't yet know exactly what the Lord wants me to do.
But I feel that I need more training in the Word for whatever it is."
"I see," Bill said.
"The thing is, I don't see how Annette and I can be married unless
we both feel called to the same ministry. Or at least our calls should be
compatible. Another thing that bothers me is that since we began discussing
marriage, Annette has been wondering about her commitment
to Africa. What if she didn't go there because she married me instead?
That's the question that's been haunting me."
"Perhaps the Lord wants Annette to spend a term in Africa while
you go to seminary," Bill said.
"That's a possibility, Pastor. And I think we're both willing to do
that, as hard as it would be. I guess the thing I really want to know is,
how can we know for sure what the Lord wants us to do? We have to
make some decisions pretty soon, and we need to know clearly what
God's will is for us."
"That's very interesting," Bill mused as he stared off into space.
Ted laughed. "I thought you'd think so. Are you going to give me
any of that free advice you promised?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. But not right now."
Bill waved at the materials on and around his desk. "You see all that
chaos? It just so happens that I was asked to lead a seminar on 'Knowing
God's Will for Your Life' at our district's annual youth conference. I've
been working on it for several weeks. In fact, that's what I was doing
when you came in."
Ted's eyes registered his amazement as he surveyed the materials on
the desk and the volumes in the cardboard box next to the pastor's chair.
"Are all those books on the will of God? You must have twenty-five
"Well, I've been collecting them for a couple of years, but new titles
seem to come off the press faster than I can read them. The subject is very
popular-always has been."
"I guess that means I'm not the Lone Ranger when it comes to questions
about God's will for my life."
"Exactly. I've probably been asked more questions on that subject
than any other-especially by young people. That's why I've been working
so hard on this seminar presentation."
"So when is this conference?" Ted asked.
"This weekend. I think they have me down for Saturday morning."
Ted's face fell. "That's not going to work for me. Our family will be
out of town at my cousin's wedding. And then I'm off to Camp
Maranatha where I'm working this summer. I'm literally just passing
"There's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat." Bill pointed
back at the pile on his desk. "I'm pretty much done with these books. I'd
be happy to lend them to you."
Ted sighed. "No offense, but I'm kind of 'booked out' right now. Is
there just one book that summarizes what I need to know?"
Bill smiled. "You could read part 1 of the first edition of Decision
Making and the Will of God. It gives an excellent account of my presentation."
Ted looked puzzled. "I guess that could work ."
"Or I could give you a copy of my outline. It won't have all the narrative
and illustrations, but you've heard this material before. All you
need is a good overview. Besides, those first chapters in Decision Making
go on forever!"
"That sounds good, Pastor Bill." Ted rose from his chair, and the
two men shook hands. "I'll come back and pick up that outline tomorrow
morning." He started toward the door, then stopped and turned
back to Bill. "Lord willing, of course."